[100 Emerging Women Leaders] Why Pearl Agarwal came back to India and founded Eximius Fund after working in the likes of Merrill Lynch

In this feature of 100 Emerging Women Leaders, we feature Pearl Agarwal, Founder and Managing Director of Eximius Fund, which enables startups in the pre-seed stage to build and scale their businesses.

When Pearl Agarwal wanted to do something of her own, she knew she wanted to look at a market like India - different, new, and emerging. 

“I had started seeing a lot of action in the Indian startup ecosystem. While money was being poured into Indian startups, there still was a need for funding in the super-early pre-seed stages,” explains Pearl in a conversation with HerStory

This led her to start Eximius Ventures in March 2020. Through the micro VC fund, Pearl aims to enable startups in the pre-seed stage to build and scale their businesses by supporting them with capital and growth opportunities. She also recognises the need for women to become equal participants in the ecosystem and eliminates accessibility gaps by giving precedence to female founders.

Pearl Agarwal

This mission led her to return to India in 2020. Coincidently, it also was the time when the pandemic had hit and the world around had gone into a complete lockdown. However, it also meant the team could find the right startups, and people who were resilient. 

In her decade-long career, Pearl had been a part of the investment landscape in the US and UK. 

“I have worked with the likes of large endowment funds and investment banks to understand the segment and the space, but with the turn of the decade, I had started seeing hungry founders and wanted to meet them and make a difference,” Pearl says. 

During her decade-long journey in the investment landscape in the US and UK, she worked with companies like UTIMCO ($40 billion endowment fund), Merrill Lynch, and Global Infrastructure Partners ($70 billion PE fund). She had experience in helping businesses raise capital, facilitating multibillion-dollar mergers and acquisitions, and more.

Her idea of moving to India was to meet startups here “that have gone beyond the MVP stage and have initial traction”. 

“I had noticed that the while the micro-VC segment and space had seen a significant growth and rise, India had a lot to catch up on. The pandemic has shown us there are so many diverse and strong startups that need the push, attention, and capital in their early stages,” she says. 

Pearl is an active angel investor with 10 companies in her personal portfolio across edtech, fintech, and gaming, among other sectors. Her notable investments include Trell, Exprs, BluSmart, GroMo, Redwing Labs, Nexweave, Lattu Kids, and inFeedo.

She looks for a strong founding team, initial market validation, and a view on the path to profitability. She believes that as a focused fund, they will also will need to “develop deep knowledge and expertise in notable sectors” to move swiftly at the same pace as angel investors and write much bigger cheques as compared to individual angel investors, “with the additional visibility of follow-up funding”. 

As a woman entrepreneur, Pearl wants to create ample growth opportunities for women founders in India, and set a precedent for them so they become equal partners in building a sustainable economy. 

“As a micro-VC fund, we are open to smaller seed investments and are excited about nurturing young talent in the industry. We have seen founders today are spending a lot of time chasing angel investors and facilitating supporting paperwork. This time can be better utilised in focusing on product development and innovation. We aim to bridge this gap in the ecosystem through Eximius,” Pearl says. 

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Edited by Teja Lele Desai


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